Housing starts down in February

The number of housing starts in the U.S. declined slightly in February, according U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau. Starts fell by 0.2 percent from January to stand at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000 units.

Improvement from January
Although starts were down from the previous month, February's decline is an improvement from January's drop of 11.2 percent. Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), said in a statement the housing industry is still recovering from the winter.

"Continuing the January trend and in line with our recent surveys, builders are in a holding pattern," Kelly said. "Poor weather is keeping many from getting into the field and they continue to face challenges related to a shortage of lots and labor."

Across the country, two regions had increases in housing construction activity. The Midwest and South posted gains of 34.5 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. Housing construction in the West declined by 5.5 percent and the Northeast recorded a drop of 37.5 percent.

Permits up in January
Building permits actually rose in February. Permits are an important figure to track for the housing industry as it can predict future construction activity, according to NAHB. Building permits increased by 7.7 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.02 million. February's positive figures were the best monthly gain since April 2013 and has housing experts excited about future activity.

Permits for single-family homes declined 1.8 percent from the previous month to 588,000 units, while multifamily permits increased 27.6 percent to 407,000. The increase in issued permits is good news for the housing industry and NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said there should be more positive growth over the next few months.

"While housing construction is in a recent lull due to unusual weather conditions, we expect to see an improvement as the winter weather pattern subsides and builders prepare for the spring selling season," Crowe said. "Competitive mortgage rates, affordable home prices and an improving economy all point to a continuing, gradual strengthening of housing activity through the rest of the year. Moreover, building permits, which are less dependent on weather and are a harbinger of future building activity, rose above 1 million units in February."

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